Meet the Alum Who Followed His Heart—to Law School

A young man with a bald head stands at a stone wall in a green field.
Eyasu Yirdaw: ‘Even if you feel like you're unqualified for an internship, still apply…’

During his time at George Mason University as a public administration major at the Schar School, Eyasu Yirdaw took many courses that prepared him for a career in public service. The bachelor of science degree’s courses included public law and legislative behavior as well as more analytical courses such as macroeconomics and statistics.

The courses appealed to him, he said, because of the practical versatility and the potential applications in both the private and nonprofit sectors. Clearly, he was thinking of a career in public service after graduating in 2018.

After a short stint working in human resources—“HR was a natural fit for what I studied and for my personality,” he said­­—Yirdaw reflected on advice given to him by his mentor and professor emerita, Laura Walker, an attorney and the former director of the Schar School’s Minor in Legal Studies Program. (Walker retired in June 2022.)

“Out of the thousands of students I have met in over 20 years of college teaching, Eyasu is one of those special students that a professor will always remember,” Walker said, recalling his inspirational spirit. “In addition to being in one of my classes, he participated in my Designing Your Life workshop, a program that helps students open their minds and hearts to many career paths.”

Clearly, his mind and heart were open: No longer in HR, Yirdaw is now a second-year law student at the University of Iowa College of Law, a consistently top 10-ranked law school. He is studying various legal fields, including employment, business, property, and contract law, with an eye on a career in employment or commercial litigation.

To get there, Yirdaw took advantage of Mason’s and the Schar School’s resources to secure internships at several institutions that contributed to his collective experience. “A lot of employers in the area recognize the Schar School as a reputable institution, and because of that, I was able to secure some really cool internships my senior year,” he said.

Those included a role as a research intern at the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., before taking a position at the Fairfax City Economic Development Office.

Internships, he said, are important for gaining experience that will become vital in the near future. “Even if you feel like you're unqualified for an internship, still apply,” he offered.

The career turns from public policy to human resources to jurisprudence leads him to offer this advice to current students: “Don’t be afraid to change course.”